Recent Commonplace Entries


“Conservatives will have a field day with this. Prepare to meet the Person Who Got the Stupidest Degree in America, because that person will be on Fox News more than pundits who exude an ‘angry cheerleading coach’ vibe. The case study will be some tragic dweeb who took out $400,000 in loans to get a Ph.D. in intersectional puppet theory from Cosa Nostra Online College and who wrote his dissertation about how ‘Fraggle Rock’ is an allegory for the Franco-Prussian War. I can picture Tucker Carlson putting on his confused cocker spaniel puppy face and asking the poor sap, ‘Why do Democrats want to forgive every last penny of your student loans?’” (Jeff Maurer, in leader in NYT, May 12)

“It is unlikely that even the inhabitants of Basingstoke know that their town, lying in the ambitiously named ‘southern sunbelt’, was once, as Hatherley explains, called the ‘Dallas of Hampshire’ or that the mid-1970s Gateway House was known as the ‘hanging gardens of Basingstoke’.” (Jonathan Meades, in review of Modern Buildings in Britain: A Gazetteer by Owen Hatherley, in Literary Review, May)

“Their national identity was lost on neither the Czar nor the Soviets, both of whom regulated the genre extensively. By the 1930s, the Stalinist regime had carried out mass executions of bandura players throughout the country. At the end of the preceding decade, Sonevytsky said, there were at least 300 bandurists registered in Ukraine. After 1936, there were four.” (Gabrielle Cornish in NYT, May 15)

‘We Are All Guilty’

“Of course, the Nazis were ultimately responsible for Anne Frank’s death, from Hitler and Eichmann all the way down to the lowly functionary Silberbauer and his henchmen. But on a global level, Anne Frank was betrayed by all those who had the ability to help Jews and chose not to. The Dutch queen betrayed her by abandoning the nation; one can imagine a different outcome had Queen Wilhelmina, like King Christian X of Denmark, stood up to the Nazi occupiers and defended the Jews. The US government betrayed her by declining to approve visas for the Frank family to travel via New York to Cuba in 1941 — the only real chance they had to escape the Netherlands. The Allies betrayed her by declining to bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz. The nations of the world betrayed her by turning away Jewish refugees. In imagining that a single person could have been responsible for Anne Frank’s death — and not the tidal wave of fascism that once threatened to engulf the world and may do so yet — are we not betraying her still?” (Rosemary Sullivan in New York Review of Books, May 26)


“Dr Heinz Kiosk, the eminent psychopenologist and chief psychiatric adviser to the Eccles Cake and Garibaldi Biscuit Council, urged at a recent seminar that prison authorities should go much further than this and be obliged to provide for every kind of sexual practice conceivable.

Some of these practices (see Krafft-Ebbing’s collected works, edited with introduction and notes by Dr Kiosk himself and Dr Melinda Fischbein) require elaborate and extensive equipment.

To those who objected that rate-payers might not be willing to pay for all of this, Dr Kiosk replied: ‘It is one way in which these so-called rate-payers can make amends for the persecution of these so-called ‘criminals’ by our unjust consumer-orientated society.’

‘And not only the ordinary rate-payers,’ he shouted hastily, as Dr Llewellyn Goth-Jones, the medical officer of health for Stretchford, who is a director of a new chain of ‘sex aid factories,’ a Nadirco subsidiary, just opened in the Midlands, rose to his feet to support him, ‘WE ARE ALL GUILTY.’”  (from The Stretchford Chronicles, 1973, by ‘Peter Simple’, aka Michael Wharton)

“I knew, thanks to a recent takeover of the company I worked for, that the larger an organization becomes, the more dysfunctional it gets. This was a truth that surely applied as much to the intelligence services as to any other place of work.” (from Mick Herron’s Preface to Slow Horses)

“A writer spends the first part of his or her career hoping to be discovered; the rest hoping not to be found out.” (from Mick Herron’s Preface to Slow Horses)

“Sid said, ‘I hate conspiracy theories.’

‘It’s not a theory once it’s proved. After that, it’s just a conspiracy.’”(from Slow Horses, p 150, by Mick Herron)

“One of the problems with information is that the useful and the useless can be snowflake-similar, and the ability to know the one from the other comes with hindsight, if at all.” (from Mick Herron’s The Last Dead Letter)

“A historian lacks the armature of the scientist or the freedom of the artist, so takes the liberty of the rhetorician. When Mr. Cohen asked Eric Hobsbawm if historical objectivity exists, Hobsbawm laughed. ‘Of course not,’ he replied. ‘But I try to obey the rules.’ Unfortunately, the rules were those of the Communist Party. Hobsbawm falsified the record to defend the indefensible.” (Dominic Green, in review of Richard Cohen’s Making History, in Wall Street Journal, May 21)

“Schizophrenia is the product of endless interaction effects. All of us are probably only a molecule or two away from madness.” (Michele Pridmore-Brown, in review of Adam Rutherford’s Control, in TLS, May 20)

“Subsequent histories of Darwinism have maintained Huxley’s view of Weissmann’s role in ‘sharpening’ the definition of Darwinism by establishing the principle of ‘”hard’ heredity: that is, the complete inability of the organism to influence the genetic information passed on to the next generation.’” (from Jessica Rifkin’s The Restless Clock, p 279)

“Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he’s unwilling to be seen with her in public.” (Ernest Mayr, in Towards a New Philosophy of Biology, quoted by Jessica Rifkin in The Restless Clock, p 347)

2 Responses to Recent Commonplace Entries

  1. Michael

    Not sure where to find on the map “his . . . redbrick house at Purely with its back-garden tennis-court”. Just south of Corydon, perhaps? And a few other typos this month, which are I believe abhorred by you.

    • coldspur

      Thank you, Michael. That damned autocorrect feature, I am sure. I have rebuked my Chief Editor, Thelma. But I am responsible: the buck stops here.

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